05/15/2013 1:38PM

Canterbury Park: Casino agreement to give meet a big boost


SHAKOPEE, Minn. – Friday evening’s opening of the Canterbury Park meet begins the first full year of a cooperative marketing agreement between the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and the track. The impact of the agreement is being felt from the condition book to trackside.

Under the provisions of the agreement, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community will provide $75  million over 10 years to fund purses. An additional $6 million is being set aside for marketing initiatives designed to increase attendance and handle at Canterbury. In return, Canterbury Park has agreed to drop its pursuit of a racino and will be working with the Sioux Community’s two casinos, Mystic Lake and Little Six, on joint marketing initiatives such as new stakes races, “Owner for a Day” casino patron promotions, and a trolley service between the track and casino on race days.

There will be five stakes contested at Canterbury carrying purses over $100,000. The $100,000 Lady Canterbury Stakes and the $100,000 Northbound Pride Oaks both return, as does the Mystic Lake Derby, a turf race run for the first time last year. The $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby carries the largest purse of any race run in Minnesota since the $250,000 St Paul Derby in 1991.

Two new six-figure stakes are scheduled for the turf. The $125,000 Mystic Lake Mile is for 3-year olds and up. while the $100,000 Shakopee Juvenile Stakes is for 2-year-olds at 7 1/2 furlongs.

The agreement, which has doubled purses from their 2011 levels to approximately $180,000 a day, has drawn the attention of horsemen, and there were nearly 2,400 stall applications for 1,600 available spaces. National powerhouse Midwest Thoroughbreds will be racing a string at Canterbury this summer for the first time, while other new faces include trainers Mike Chambers, Chris Hartman, Robertino Diodoro and the return after a long absence of Dan MacFarlane and Greg Tracy. After spot-starting at Canterbury over the past few years, trainer Joel Berndt will operate a full string at Canterbury this season.

The increase in the number of horses on the grounds has led to an earlier 6:30 p.m. post time on Thursday and Friday evenings to accommodate additional races. The season has also been extended. Rather than the traditional end of the season on Labor Day, the meet will continue for an additional two weeks and conclude Sept. 14 for a total of 69 race days, the longest racing season since 2006.

Many cosmetic improvements are on tap to greet fans. A new infield toteboard will be unveiled on opening night which offers a 200-foot digital information crawl and an 800-square-foot video screen, nearly twice the size of the screen it replaces. A video board has also been installed in the paddock area.

“The new toteboard and video screens will allow our guests to experience racing like never before,” Canterbury president Randy Sampson said. “The digital capability allows us to present information to the fans that was not possible in the past.”

Opening weekend features two six-furlong stakes for Minnesota-breds, the $50,000 Lady Slipper Stakes on Friday and the $50,000 10,000 Lakes Stakes on Saturday.